My dear friend allowed me to use this plot. If you would like to read the original plot synopsis, please visit the factory of mistakes.
This story comes with trigger warnings for suicide, and unpleasant things.
The media didn’t know what to make of it. Reports had been flying in, from all over the city, about people who suddenly saw doppelgängers of themselves everywhere. At first, the News at Six had speculated that it was a new mental illness, which had been unknown before. This was the common stance until two days later their lead presenter had broken down live on air while swearing she could see a thousand of herself right in front of her.
David had been watching the news reports with interest.
Channel Eight News were interviewing lead psychologists, health advisors, and neurologists. None of them really knew what to say, but they did know how to argue with each other There was some docu-drama on Studio Five about how this was all related to crop circles and the Mayan apocalypse. The truth was, it had been two days, and nobody really knew what was happening. They had estimated that around 2% of the population was now affected, and it was spreading.
On around day five of the media panic, it started to happen to David.
He had been preparing himself to get ready for work. He had put on his usual suit and tie, and he had started his walk to the train station. On his way, he passed by the same people he usually passed – a jogger, an older woman walking her dog, and a sweet-looking lady. But, in one stride, he saw himself step to the side, greet the young lady, take her arm, and continue walking with her. The young lady continued onwards, and the version of himself that he saw took a different course, arms linked with nothing. He stopped in his tracks, as twenty versions of himself walked back home, continued briskly onwards, sat down and cried, and started running after the girl.
Every moment, every version of himself lived out every possible choice he could have made. The air was thick with a thousand Davids, living a thousand lives. There were six of him doing exactly the same thing he was doing now, but with a different tie. He did his best to get to work, to sit at his desk like everything was normal, but the primary David went home at lunch complaining of a migraine. Eight of him stayed at work. When he got home, ten of him were on the sofa looking despondent. One of him was hanging from the shower rails.
When he switched on the lunchtime news, the presenter said that as many as 20% of the population was now affected, and that record numbers of suicides had been reported. In the last two days, there were as many suicides as there had been in the last three years. Top scientists were said to be working on a cure, and were currently blaming the outbreak on prion disease. David was vegetarian, so he knew that wasn’t true.
As he reflected, he had a romantic vision that every possible world had collided and was superimposed on each other, and he was seeing reflections of himself making each possible choice. He noticed that a few of the despondent Davids had now left the flat, and he realised he had the same idea as them. If he was seeing every possible outcome of every possible choice he could make, perhaps he could see shadows of the versions of himself who had made very different choices.
Several of the Davids made some interesting route choices, but David wasn’t following them. He had remembered that there was a job he very much wanted in the old part of town, and had applied for twice. It was at the local newspaper offices, doing some filing. He walked to that part of town in the hope of vindicating himself. He saw nothing. He loitered outside of the office long enough for a security guard to be giving him a mean look. After an hour or so, he left, dejected.
On his route home, he passed a house. It was a house he had seen plenty of times in his life, and had always thought was quite charming. There was honeysuckle and the front door was painted a cheery shade of green. He noticed a man walk out of the door, but also noticed that the door didn’t move. He did not at first recognise the man. The man had a beard, wore clothes that co-ordinated and sensible shoes. He made motions like he was pushing something that wasn’t there. And then, suddenly, the man turned into six men, taking different routes, some of them holding something, some of them going back inside, some of them carrying on. And then, David realised it was him.
For a while, David didn’t know quite what to do. There was the flickering of some lights in the house, as the afternoon dawdled slowly to dusk. A few Davids had crept towards the door already, and David was feeling the pressure to make that choice. He didn’t like already having second guessed himself. He drew a deep breath, stepped forward, and rang the doorbell.
A long minute passed. A flux of different Davids walked in the house, but not the real David.
He rang the doorbell again.
After an agonising wait, the door crept slowly open. It was the young lady he always saw at the train station. Her face was red and stained with tears. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She was still crying. David didn’t know what else to do, so he reached out his arms and held her as she sobbed.
The lady invited him inside, and introduced herself as Madeline. David could see himself all over the front room, in so many different places, some of them highly sexual. David saw a nude version of himself thrusting wildly over to the side of the sofa, and tried his best to avoid eye contact. He noticed Madeline’s gaze avoiding the same area of the room.
Madeline explained that she had been affected by the illness, and that she didn’t know who she was any more. She had not made it to work that morning. After she passed David on her walk to work, she split in two, and had broken down. She was afraid to go outside. She had hoped that if she stood still long enough, she would stop splitting up. David didn’t know what to say. Madeline was beautiful, fragile, and alone. David wished that he knew how to help.
After staying a short while, and insisting on helping Madeline to make some dinner and to eat, David returned home. He promised to visit Madeline every day, to check that she was okay, and to bring her food.
His flat was crowded with Davids, and so many of them were dead. When he saw so many mutilated and bloated versions of his dead face, he was physically ill.
On the news, still blaring in the background, reports were coming in of public services coming to a standstill. None of the transport in the city was running. Ambulance, fire and police services were at a halt. Minor news stations were closing their doors. 50% of the population was said to now be affected, with one in ten committing suicide within three days of manifesting symptoms.
David slept restlessly, as he knew he was being watched by himself.
The next day came, and a vast number of Davids went to the local supermarket. It was closed, the windows smashed, and quite possibly looted. If this was the apocalypse, David would loot a nice bouquet of flowers to cheer up Madeline. Most of the Davids seemed to agree, so before long David returned to his fair lady with a beautiful arrangement of lilies, some reasonably priced chocolate, and an Italian meal deal for two. He left ten pounds on the counter anyway.
When he reached Madeline’s house he saw hundreds of himself. She wasn’t answering the doorbell, but the door was unlocked. He went in, and saw through the swarm that she was sat bolt upright on the sofa, just where he had left her. She wasn’t well. She smiled thinly at the flowers, and David wilted a little. He held her a while, made her some food, and fawned over her. She didn’t speak. She sat, and cried.
That night, he stayed in the house to watch over her. From the many different kinds of David in the house, he knew this was a woman he loved, had loved, or was going to love in many different lifetimes. He didn’t feel like he knew Madeline yet, but he still felt some sense of loyalty. Perhaps it was some romantic notion of destiny. She was growing frail and sleepless.
In the morning, David went in to the front room and found her still crying. Madeline spoke this time, though. She had seen herself the day prior, heavily pregnant. Hundreds of pregnant Madelines. And half of them had miscarried. Of the half of them, around six had killed themselves. There were Madelines in the room right now, cradling phantom babies. Madelines in her bed, writhing in lovemaking. Madelines arguing. Madelines crying. Madelines kissing, arm in arm with men she couldn’t see. Madeline couldn’t stand it any longer.
After some coaxing, he brought her back to his flat, away from the Madelines living unfathomable lives. Unfortunately, this didn’t solve the problem. Madeline was aghast. There were so many more of her here. She ran out. David didn’t know what to do. There were so many Davids now that it was getting impossible to tell what the other Davids were doing in response.
When he came to his senses, and went back to her house, it was too late. Among the crowd of Davids was a respectful gap, and in the respectful gap was fair Madeline. She was not breathing. The pool of blood spreading over the carpet told him what he needed to know.
As his heart broke, the other Davids slowly started to fade away.